- Associated Press - Tuesday, October 14, 2014

CHICAGO (AP) - Gov. Pat Quinn and Republican Bruce Rauner defended their records on minority hiring, public safety and gun control on Tuesday during the second televised debate of the hotly contested Illinois governor’s race, a Chicago event heavily focused on issues impacting African-American voters.

Quinn said as governor he’s hired minorities in key administration positions - including in the post of deputy governor and the head of the Department of Public Health - but said Rauner, a venture capitalist, didn’t hire African Americans at the highest levels of his Chicago-based firm, GTCR.

“Our cabinet is diverse and many African Americans are heading departments,” Quinn said, labeling his opponent an “outsourcer” of jobs overseas. He also noted his support for the Affordable Care Act and pushing to increase the minimum wage.

Rauner shot back saying Quinn’s policies have failed blacks Illinoisans and that companies his firm invested in have African American employees.

“Gov. Quinn is taking the African American vote for granted,” Rauner said. “African American families are suffering.”

Black voters in Chicago and its suburbs have been credited with helping Quinn, a Democrat, win a narrow victory in 2010. Many expect the voting bloc to play a key role again. Rauner has been trying to aggressively make inroads. He’s opened a campaign office on the city’s South Side, given about $1 million to a credit union for loans to small black businesses and touted endorsements from black ministers. In response, Quinn has questioned Rauner’s hiring and accused him of trying to buy votes.

The debate at the DuSable Museum of African American History was hosted by groups including the Chicago Urban League, WBBM-TV and black radio station, WVON. Organizers said the focus on business, education and public safety would also speak to voters statewide ahead of Nov. 4.

Quinn, of Chicago, is seeking a second full term. Rauner, a venture capitalist from Winnetka, is seeking public office for the first time in one of the most closely-watched governor’s races nationwide. President Barack Obama is scheduled to stump for Quinn in Illinois again on Sunday with a rally at Chicago State University.

Quinn was asked how he’d help build trust among minorities with law enforcement.

He noted his record of trying to clear the clemency backlog “based on justice and mercy.” More than 2,500 clemency cases built up under his predecessor.

“That is part of helping ex-offenders who have made mistakes, who have served their time, get a fresh start,” Quinn said.

But Rauner said Quinn has failed on public safety and the prison system, saying the best way to reduce crime is to grow the economy to create jobs.

“We have crime because we have a lack of opportunity,” he said.

On guns, Quinn again voiced support for an assault weapons ban. Rauner supports background checks to ensure that criminals and people with a history of mental illness don’t have access to guns, but was unclear Tuesday as to whether he’d support a ban. He’s said such a ban could run afoul of constitutional rights.

Recently both candidates have clashed over taxes and economic plans, a topic that dominated their first traditional debate last week in Peoria. Their final debate is Oct. 20 in Chicago.

Quinn has called on Rauner to release more 2013 income tax documents, part of his efforts to paint Rauner as an out-of-touch multimillionaire. Rauner made public returns public last week showing that he and his wife earned nearly $61 million and paid $17 million in state and federal taxes.

Rauner says he voluntarily released several previous years of tax returns. He’s said Illinois needs a fresh start and that families are worse off under Quinn because he signed a 67 percent temporary income tax increase in 2011 that rolls back in January.

Rauner challenged Quinn during Tuesday’s debate to hold off on calling for an extension during the legislative veto session next month.

Quinn has consistently said he favors an extension to prevent “radical, extreme” cuts to schools and services, an idea he reiterated Tuesday.

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Follow Sophia Tareen at https://twitter.com/sophiatareen and Sara Burnett at https://twitter.com/sara_burnett

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